I didn’t cook an elaborate meal this weekend only because I wanted to have the time to devote to making somewhat of a time consuming dessert-Julia’s tartes aux fraises (strawberry tarts). I had been eying the recipe in The French Chef Cookbook for quite some time but never made them due to my lack of tartlet pans. That was remedied last weekend with my purchase of some at my new favorite store, Sur la Table.
To start it off I made the pastry dough yesterday afternoon. Julia writes that you can either use your favorite mixture or the recipe for French sweet dough which she provides. I opted for the latter as this was one recipe I didn’t want to take shortcuts on. The dough was very simple to make (a combination of flour, chilled shortening, a stick of butter, salt, sugar, and water) and needed to chill at least two hours.
When the dough was chilling I moved onto making the creme patissiere (French pastry cream). People would be most familiar with it in an eclair context as it is the delectable filling found inside the pastry. The cream consists of six egg yolks, sugar, flour, hot milk, butter, and rum and vanilla extract for the flavoring and is continuously beat until it starts to thicken. Julia does note that the cream will keep for three or four days under refrigeration or can even be frozen. I had a ton of it leftover and ended up freezing it.
Making the tart shells was the slightly difficult and labor intensive part of the recipe. Once the dough has chilled, you roll it out about 1/8 inch thick and line the tartlet pans. You bake the shells two times, one with “weights,” the other time sans. I didn’t have baking weights and used lentils instead although I don’t think they helped much…
Once the shells have been baked, you paint the insides with warm glaze (she provides a recipe for this) . This helps to waterproof the shell keeping it crisp under the filling.
And then comes the adding of the French pastry cream and of course the fraises.
I thought they turned out pretty good for my first try at making them and
I sure was happy with the taste results. Bon appetit!